In a perfect world, artists would gladly allow churches and religious organizations to use their literature, art, or other work to further the Good News. In a perfect world, churches wouldn’t have to ask for permission or pay a fee for their use. But in our imperfect world, churches can and do get sued when they use a work without permission or without paying. Churches sometimes view their free use of work as good stewardship, but often there’s another word for it: illegal. Doing the right thing starts with knowing the basics about copyright law.
A copyright is a legal device authors and artists use to protect their original works of authorship from unauthorized use. Copyright protection gives owners a stick to shake, so to speak, at someone who tries to use their work without authorization or permission, implying (or outright threatening) legal action. Thankfully, exemptions in copyright laws allow churches to use limited categories of works under certain conditions without having to ask for permission or paying a fee.